Language Learner Engagement: Setting the Scene

  • Sarah MercerEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Engagement is the key to successful language learning. It describes the dynamic state when learners are actively thinking about, focusing on, and enjoying their language learning. In order to be willing and ready to engage, learners need to be in the right frame of mind to do so. To better understand what the key motivational antecedents for engagement are, this chapter draws on insights from self-determination theory (SDT). This theory suggests that we all have needs that must be met in order for us to feel willing to engage with learning opportunities – we need to feel a sense of competence, autonomy, and relatedness. For example, this means a learner needs to believe they can successfully manage the learning that is of value to them, that they have some choice and influence over what they do and how they do it, and that this can all be done within a supportive, low-anxiety community of peers and teacher. In this chapter, I describe what engagement is and why I think it is so important to understand for language education specifically. I reflect on the nature of the motivational antecedents and how we can best promote them as language educators. The chapter concludes with considerations for a holistic model of language learner engagement which would bring together the motivational antecedents within an ecological perspective.


Engagement Self Competence Autonomy Relatedness Language 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GrazGrazAustria

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